The RealClearPolitics average illustrating President Obama’s 60%+ approval rating after his first 100 days in office should give conservatives pause for concern when contemplating their political prospects for the future.
However, Jim Tedisco’s recent narrow defeat to Scott Murphy in New York’s 20th congressional district — a district that provided Democrat Kristen Gillibrand with almost 62% of the votes cast in 2008 — provides a glimmer of hope for conservative prospects in 2010. Right?
Not so fast.
I am a 27-year-old staunch conservative, and it pains me to write that conservatives will continue to have problems winning politically in the foreseeable future. The reason lies not with conservatism’s adherence to age-old principles of personal responsibility, traditional morality, and free-market capitalism. Rather, the conservative plight resides in two areas of the current political environment.
The first is President Obama’s eloquent technique of attacking a conservative straw man and his use of non sequiturs: arguing the imperative for health care reform to help counter the current economic recession, for example. Disregarding Obama’s free pass from the press, these logically flawed arguments are nonetheless effective and resonate with the public — a substantial reason for conservatives to worry about the future of their cause. However, I will not expound further on Obama’s Houdini-like homilies proselytizing on the pillars of the church of liberalism. Rather, I will focus on the inherently feeble conservative response.
Conservatism’s real quandary lies in the fact that it cannot be effectively communicated in a Moveon-esque, 20-second sound clip — a medium that my Pavlovian generation flocks to without a critical thought. Liberalism is an ideology of emotion and false hope: a deadly combination. Conservatism takes some thought and deductive reasoning: a deadly knell.
For example, it’s easy to campaign on a liberal promise to provide universal health care for all. And it is next to impossible to communicate an equally effective argument against this proposal. Without losing the audience, how does one prove the (seemingly self-evident) truth that universal health care for 300 million individuals is impossible to economically sustain without massive tax increases on the middle class and medical care rationing? And if a conservative is gifted enough to keep the audience interested to this point, it is also equally important (and difficult) to provide the listener with a compelling alternative.
The present conservative attempt at providing a case for free market solutions based on an individual necessity with limited governmental intervention is leading a majority of Americans to vote for the guy or gal that states the easy euphemism “everybody is entitled to be healthy” while preparing to vote for punitive tax measures on the same constituency.
Similarly, even after the liberal monolith of Social Security has proved to be an empirical and economic disaster, liberals still win the argument.
The argument that states, without any proof, that the other wants to take away grandma’s hard-earned benefits for a problem that will come to fruition when her 27-year-old grandson retires is easy to argue and win. The argument that an economically unsustainable entitlement program subsidizing the Baby Boom generation — and which will inevitably contribute to the peril of the U.S.’s economic might — could be easily replaced with personal retirement accounts yielding vastly higher returns is more difficult for the proponent to argue and the listener to conceptualize.
One may argue that the above paradox for a conservative is fortified by the Occam’s razor maxim. For a voter, why struggle to abide by a more complicated philosophy when its simpler counterpart makes sense and is easy to comprehend? However, conservatism could be rectified and dominate in perpetuity if a budding conservative pol disregards this widely acknowledged analogy to American politics.
In reality, politics is a war. As a conservative, I reject the notion that conservatives and liberals are aiming for the same ideal. If conservatives redefine the political argument by proposing the optimum of prosperity and independence, which is the antithesis of a liberal doctrinaire desire for government-enforced equality via social engineering, then conservatism will have a fighter’s chance. By effectively redefining the goals of the American political process, a conservative will be simultaneously freed from the shackles of arguing against liberal “truths” and empowered to advance proven mechanisms for national prosperity and security.
Writing of Democracy in America in the mid nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:
A member of [Congress’s] audience has to listen to great general truths which he often does not understand himself and makes a muddle of exposing, and very minute particulars which he has not much chance of verifying or explaining. Consequently the debates of [Congress] are frequently vague and perplexed.
This truism by de Tocqueville continues to this day and has become an abundantly advantageous weapon for the left to effectively pass their agenda with the perplexing “general truths” of false hope.